Polling places in synagogues are being moved for Pennsylvania's April primary during Passover.

Harrisburg — Some of Pennsylvania's most populous counties are moving voting sites out of synagogues and other Jewish institutions after the Legislature deadlocked last year over proposals to move next month's primary election away from Passover.

In Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, election officials moved 16 polling stations from six synagogues and a Jewish community center. The primary is April 23. Allegheny County spokesman Abigail Gardner said just a small number of polling stations moved due to the holiday, and all will return in November

Gardner noted Friday that with more than 1,300 precincts, any number of them are changing ownership, shutting, unavailable due to a special event, etc., so we have to find new polling places every year. Letters and signs will direct voters in impacted precincts to the new venues.

Philadelphia polling places were moved. A 2019 research revealed approximately 200,000 Jewish homes in the city and its four “collar” counties, totaling 450,000 people. Philadelphia moved four synagogue polling booths that had held elections for six years. A synagogue voting station in Bucks County, a Philadelphia suburb, will be considered for relocation on Monday.

In Montgomery County, Philadelphia's most populous suburb, eight of the 17 voting booths shifted Thursday were synagogue-based. Democratic Montgomery County elections board chairman Neil Makhija called it “unfortunate and disrespectful” that state lawmakers couldn't find a replacement for April 23 on Friday.

“It's like having Election Day on Easter or Christmas. People are worshipping or with family. No matter what, people would vote, remarked Hindu man Makhija, whose wife is Jewish. There will be some who won't.”

Pennsylvania law holds most primaries in May, but presidential election years like 2024 have them on the fourth Tuesday in April. Changing the primary date to avoid Passover and make it more relevant to the presidential election was explored last summer and fall.

The Democratic-controlled House opposed moving the primary to March 19 after the Senate overwhelmingly decided to do so in September. The Senate did not move on the October House decision with all Republicans against an April 2 primary. By then, county election officials said time had run out due to petition circulation, voting venue security, and poll worker preparation for a different date.

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